Helpful Herbs: Calendula
Calendula is an easy to grow herb which produces beautiful yellow and orange flowers in midsummer and has wide ranging healing properties. If you’ve never grown a garden before, you can still get calendula to thrive and if you chose to, you can pay it no attention to it and it will still be happy.
You can start calendula with either seedlings or from seed, and it will tolerate a wide variety of soil and light conditions. I recommend starting seeds in loose soil with full sun, and to make sure that you give it plenty of room to expand. Calendula is an annual, but it self-seeds effectively and can spread rapidly if not kept in check. The process of harvesting the flowers for salves and lotions can help to keep its reseeding in check, and if you are not planning to harvest the flowers you should at least deadhead the plants regularly.
Calendula is a specific type of flower which is sometimes referred to as marigold, corn marigold, pot marigold, or desert marigold. It is a specific species of marigold known in Latin as C. officinalis, though it is in the same genus as some of the more common marigold varieties.
Like any plant, calendula like to be regularly watered and fertilized, but they are hardy enough they require little attention. Around mid-July you should start to see a variety of yellow, orange, and reddish blossoms. If you wish to harvest your calendula blossoms, pluck them at mid-day when the flowers are fully open and no longer have any dew or overnight moisture on them.
Once harvested, calendula blossoms can be dried and used for healing. Pluck only the blossoms and leave them face down on a screen. The drier the area the better, and if you can elevate the screen it will yield the best results. Turn the flowers regularly and feel free to continue adding blossoms as you dry. Calendula plants will flower more if they are harvested regularly, so keep checking them for flowers.
It should take about ten days for the blossoms to dry out. Wait until they are fully dry and you cannot feel any moisture in the head of the flower. Once they are ready, carefully pluck the dried petals of the flower out of the heads. Discard the heads and store the petals in an airtight jar.
You can make all manner of tinctures with your calendula blossoms, from salves to tea to lip balms or lotions. Most of these are easy to make and can help provide relief from a wide variety of symptoms.
The benefits of calendula are wide ranging, but most commonly it is applied to the skin to reduce pain, swelling, and rashes. Calendula can also be used for muscle spasms, sore throat, or to ease menstrual cramps. A calendula compress can be used to treat varicose veins, and it is generally used to stimulate the immune system and reduce the risk of certain cancers. The Ancient Egyptians used calendula to rejuvenate their skin, and in modern times it is still occasionally used to treat acne. It is even rumored in folklore that calendula strewn under the bed would help protect you from robbers and thieves.
Easy to grow and harvest and endlessly useful, calendula was one of the first herbs I decided to plant. If you have a patch of unused earth in your yard or garden, plant a few calendula seeds and enjoy the benefits.
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